Monday, June 23, 2008

Another kind of Alice

“Alice in Wonderland” is a well-known story. But the story of “American McGee’s Alice” is more interesting.

Above this paragraph you see Alice and the Cheshire Cat quite early in the game. In fact, it’s the first level of the action adventure and Alice has just acquired her first weapon ... the knife. It’s quite obvious neither of them looks like the Disney version.

Up there are Alice and the White Rabbit in a huge garden (after Alice has been shrunken) shortly before the latter is stomped by the Mad Hatter.

As both pictures show, the world of the game is much darker - and far more dangerous - than the original story or the rather cheery Disney version. This Alice has gone through a lot. Her parents’ house has burned down and she is the sole survivor, falling into a stupor right afterwards. She’s been inside an asylum for quite a while - and in her mind she is travelling the Wonderland, trying to find a way out ... and a way to restore the dark world to its former glory.

American McGee has taken the stories about Alice and twisted them around. He has recreated all characters from Alice herself to the Queen of Hearts and the Jabberwocky. Taking their little quirks to the extreme, he has given them a new direction. The Mad Hatter is absolutely set on recreating life in an artificial form - to make living things work like clockwork and machines. The Jabberwocky has build a lair for himself that could rival hell itself (including imps and dragon). And the labyrinth of the Queen of Hearts is definitely deadly.

The game is quite old already (came out in 2000) and the graphics aren’t necessary up to modern standards. But quite some things about it (the design of the levels, the strange looks of the enemies and friends) are still great. I personally can live with the weaknesses of the graphics engine (the “Quake III” engine, in fact), because the story, the characters and the whole game-play are great.

My copy of the game was bought used. In fact, I do have a strange story with this game. When it came out in 2000, I didn’t have a computer it would run on. When I finally had one, the game was no longer on sale (it wasn’t exactly a huge success). Then I found a budget version of it and could play the game. A while later, I bought a new computer and the game didn’t run on it, so I sold it again. The next computer I bought would have allowed me to play it again - but I had already sold it. Over amazon I bought it again; used, the box a bit damaged, but still completely in order. So the game has, in one way or the other, occupied my thoughts ever since 2000. It still does, every now and then. Whenever I feel like it, I install and play it again.

So, this is another Alice, not as nice, not as friendly, not as soft and surely not as blonde as Disney’s Alice.

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